Bloomberg News

Obama Highlights Plan to Hire Veterans, Aid States in Jobs Plan

October 19, 2011

Oct. 19 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama, promoting his jobs plan in Virginia, said a group of 270 companies including ConAgra Foods Inc. and Tyson Foods Inc. has pledged to hire 25,000 military veterans and spouses by the end of 2013.

The commitment, made by a trade association of companies that supply goods to military bases for facilities such as commissaries and exchanges, represents a quarter of the target for private-sector hiring of veterans that Obama announced in August.

“There are far too many veterans who are coming home and having to struggle to find a job worthy of their talents,” Obama said today at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Hampton, Virginia. “The last thing you should have to do is fight for a job when you come home -- not here, not in the United States of America.”

The stop came on the final day of the president’s bus tour through North Carolina and Virginia to promote his economic proposals. Obama has used the three-day trip to sharpen his attacks against Republicans in Congress, who have blocked his $447 billion package of tax cuts and government spending intended to reignite growth and hiring.

Obama said more needs to be done beyond the commitments by businesses to hire veterans. Included in his proposal was a measure giving companies tax credits of $2,400 to $9,600 to hire veterans who’ve been unemployed for more than six months or are disabled. The administration’s strategy now is to seek votes on individual components of the broader plan.

Seeking a Vote

“When I first proposed this idea in a joint session of Congress, people stood up and applauded on both sides of the aisle,” Obama said of the tax credits to hire veterans. “So when it comes for a vote in the Senate, I expect to get votes from both sides of the aisle.”

Republicans have a majority in the House of Representatives, and their 47 votes in the Senate are enough under the chamber’s rules to derail consideration of legislation. They have rejected the tax increases proposed to pay for Obama’s plan, which includes aid to states and infrastructure repairs.

Today’s announcement on veteran hiring was part of an initiative the president outlined in August. First lady Michelle Obama, who joined the president at the base, said the pledge by the companies marks the largest coordinated effort by the private sector to hire veterans and their spouses in years. “They do not want to miss out on your potential,” she said.

‘Good for Business’

The companies aren’t just making these pledges because it’s “the right thing to do,” Michelle Obama said. “They’re also doing it because it’s good for their bottom line, it’s good for business.”

Among the companies making commitments, Sears Holdings Corp. is increasing the number of veterans and spouses in their workforce by 10 percent, according to the first lady, and the Chamber of Commerce is hosting jobs fairs for veterans in cities across the nation.

Kmart, a unit of Sears, and Sam’s Club, a unit of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. have promised the administration that if a military spouse working at one of their stores must move, “they will do their very best to have a job waiting for them when they arrive,” Michelle Obama said.

The commitment by the American Logistics Association, which represents companies that sell goods and services available at military commissaries, exchanges and centers, is “just going to be the beginning,” Patrick Nixon, the group’s president, said yesterday on a conference call.

Unemployment

Unemployment among veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan outpaces that of civilians by almost 3 percentage points. In September, it was 11.7 percent.

With the national jobless rate hovering at or above 9 percent for the more than two years, the economy will be a central issue as Obama seeks re-election in 2012.

The bus trip has carried Obama through two Republican- leaning states that he won in 2008. He is trying to hold both next year, especially as he will likely be battling to keep swing states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania in the Democratic column. Together, North Carolina and Virginia have 28 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.

During a stop later at a firehouse in Chesterfield, Virginia, Obama focused on parts of his plan that call for spending $35 billion for state aid to keep teachers and emergency worker on the job that he and Senate Democratic leaders want to bring for a vote first.

Government Jobs

While the private sector has been adding jobs over the last 19 months, state and local governments have been shedding workers, he said.

“Keeping first responders on the job, that’s a jobs plan,” he said. “Keeping more teachers in the classroom, that’s a job’s plan,” Obama told the group of firefighters.

He said Republicans are proposing to roll back clean air and water rules and regulation of financial institutions. “That is not a jobs plan,” he said.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Obama and the Democrats are focused more on raising taxes and federal spending.

‘This is the third time in three years the President’s asked us to bail out the states,’’ McConnell said in remarks on the Senate floor today. “How many more times -- and how many more billions -- before someone realizes it’s a bad idea?”

--With assistance from Kate Andersen Brower and Roger Runningen in Washington. Editors: Joe Sobczyk, Justin Blum

To contact the reporters on this story: Julianna Goldman in Washington at jgoldman6@bloomberg.net; Margaret Talev in Washington at mtalev@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net


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